An argument can be made the two best wide receivers in the NFL will meet at Ford Field on Sunday. Detroit’s Calvin “Megatron” Johnson is has been considered the league’s best for at least the past four seasons, but now the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant has entered the conversation.
Bryant is very respectful of Johnson, but he’s been clear that he doesn’t compare himself to any other receiver. Johnson has more speed and size than Bryant, but both players are capable of taking over games. On Monday, Bryant joined our show on 103.3 KESN-FM and was asked if there’s anything Johnson can do on the field that he can’t. After pausing for a few seconds, Bryant offered this response:
“I believe I can do whatever he can do,” Bryant said. “I think it’s just a pride thing. When it comes to football, just being on the field, it’s a mindset and having a mentality. I honestly believe when I’m there, I’ll be feeling like there’s nothing I can’t do. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do it.
“I always feel like there’s more. I think that’s just a mindset you’re supposed to have.”
Johnson set an NFL record with 1,964 yards last season, but it’s Bryant who’s been a touchdown machine dating back to the last eight games of 2012. Bryant had only two touchdowns through the first eight games of last season. Since then, he’s had 16 touchdowns in 15 games. Johnson only has 10 touchdowns in that same span. Those numbers are even more remarkable when you consider that opposing defenses haven’t needed to respect the running attacks from Detroit or Dallas. The Lions had the 23rd ranked rushing offense last season, while the Cowboys checked in at No. 31 overall. And neither team has shown a lot of improvement in that area this season.
Jerry Jones actually showed some restraint when talking about Bryant on his 105.3 radio show Tuesday.
“I think that Johnson at Detroit has got to be the best receiver or best end target, if you want to put it like that, the best guy to go to right now in the league,” Jones said. “Dez can aspire to be that and has a chance to be that.”
Both Bryant and Johnson are averaging close to 82 yards per game this season. The biggest advantage that Johnson has right now is that he has a more impressive body of work. He had at least 1,200 yards receiving in four of his first six seasons. He’s also averaged at least 17 yards per catch in three of those seasons. And to average 16.1 yards on 122 receptions in 2012 was a remarkable feat.
Bryant has finally learned a lesson that Johnson mastered early in his NFL career. He actually will live to see another down instead of constantly trying to punish defenders. Bryant used to fight for extra yardage on nearly every play, which led to turnovers.
He’s played for three different wide receivers coaches during his four seasons in the league. But you could tell immediately this past offseason that he bonded with Derek Dooley when he replaced Jimmy Robinson in that capacity. Dooley is a demanding coach who asks his receivers to be extremely precise. Bryant has actually become such a student of the game that he now mentors young receivers such as Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.
That he’s even mentioned in the same conversation with Johnson is a testament to what he’s accomplished since the last half of the 2012 season. And when he says he can do anything that Johnson can do, that’s probably not a stretch.